On a cold (Belgian) Winter's day there was a Finnish line-up representing the top of so-called melodic death metal at Biebob, Vosselaar. Insomnium released an epic musical masterpiece with "Winter's Gate" and were here to play the 40 minute track in full live! They got help opening up the gates to Winter from Barren Earth and Wolfheart to set the night aflame. We were there and saw in a nearly sold out Biebob that it was good...
Wolfheart (***1/2) was the first band to kick off this great night with what Tuomas Saukkonen calls "Winter Metal" (read more about it soon in our interview). Starting their show with a trio of older work from the debut album Winterborn, Tuomas and his musicians clearly enjoyed playing, considering the amount of windmilling and headbanging on stage. The sound was quite a bit better than last time that I saw them at Biebob, though the drums now and then were too loud in the mix which harmed the overall sound a bit. After something old, we got something new with Boneyard, the first single of the upcoming third album Tyhjyys (March 3rd). The harsh yet beautiful music is a blistering metal track with doom influences, high paced black metal riffage and drum blast beats that'll set any room ablaze! Very promising sounds for what is to come... Rounding up the show, they brought up the track Zero Gravity from the second album Shadow World and ended strong with the crowdpleaser Routa Pt. 2, the epic song from the debut album which made me discover Wolfheart years ago. Personally I missed some songs on the setlist, like Aeons of Cold, but when you only get 30 minutes to play hard choices are to be made. I can't wait to be able to see Wolfheart with a longer setlist and a better sound mix! A great opener anyway for a night of blistering cold Finnish metal...
Strength and Valor
Ghosts of Karelia
Routa Pt. 2
Barren Earth (***) continued this evening of Finnish metal delight with a more progressive touch to their death metal. Eventhough vocalist Jón Aldará announced to us that half of the band was brand new (guitars, drums and keyboard), you wouldn't have known if you didn't know any better. Kicking off the setlist with some older work from the first albums, they set up shop in that doomy progressive death metal corner that can bring so much atmosphere to a room. Jón was as usually extremely expressive in his vocal performance with a whole range of different facial expressions, bends and turns of his body. You could see that he throws himself into the gig fully without holding back anything!
As always the vocals were perfectly executed showing off his talents, from deep gutheral grunts to warm, emotional clean singing, not a flaw to be found! But for me the gig got really interesting when they touched the music of their latest album On Lonely Towers, hitting that level of progressive death metal Opeth used to be so well-known for. When announcing they were about to play the last song, people were not happy. But when they said it to be the title track of their latest masterpiece, they could rest easy since it's a 12 minute track with tons of layers and tempo changes. A great performance, but after the brutality of Wolfheart I was maybe a bit underwhelmed because of the big amount of atmospheric calm parts. Maybe a switch in support bands could've worked better to build up to the main event.
A Shapeless Derelict
The Rains Begin
On Lonely Towers
And then it was time for the main event for which a lot of people had been looking forward to: Insomnium (*****)! Biebob looked like it was almost sold out, it was that crowded. The room got dark and the sounds of a cold wind got the unique performance of Winter's Gate started. Playing the 40 minute epic track must be quite an undertaking for the band and it got me wondering on beforehand if they would be able to reproduce the magic of the recording on stage. There was absolutely no need to worry, this was quite the experience! The atmosphere was perfectly set with only light coming from behind the guys and a lot of smoke added (which was a frustration for photographers) and they really managed to capture the setting of the group of vikings fighting against the monsters of Winter in their quest for treasure. For those 40 minutes you totally felt like you weren't in some venue in Belgium, but on that remote Irish island from the story. The progressive track with elements of melodic death, doom and even black metal really is a masterpiece of Finnish metal mastery that deservedly has been named the best album of 2016 by many. An impressive undertaking that I would immediately sign up for again given the chance.
If you already were impressed by the masterpiece that just engulfed you (and you should), the second part of the show should've blow you away! Insomnium grabbed in their already impressive bag of more than decent melodic death metal tracks and came up with a set of some of their best tracks of the last 4 albums before Winter's Gate. Kicking off with 2 songs of their breakthrough album Above the Weeping World, the temperature and energy in the room immediately got raised to a whole different level. The crowd went wild and the band fed off that energy to kick it up a notch still. Horns and fists were raised, heads were banged, hair flew through the air and sweat was pouring from every part of the body! Which exploded into an ultimate (early) climax with While We Sleep from their masterpiece Shadows of the Dying Sun and Drawn to Black from Above the Weeping World.
Their regular set ended with The Promethean Song from again that very successful Shadows of the Dying Sun album and really finished with a bang! Though no reason to go home yet, cause after a short break with a lot of chanting/shouting by the crowd for the band to come back, they did mount the stage again for the encore. They decided to treat us with a trio of tracks from Across the Dark, building up to yet another climax. Equivalence was a great way to start in a slightly calmer way and get to the ultimate melodic death metal sound with Down with the Sun and very last song Weighed Down with Sorrow! Insomnium came, saw en conquered Belgium and the crowd's hearts. I'm pretty sure this might be one of the best shows of 2017 even though the year is still long...
While We Sleep
Drawn to Black
Change of Heart
Only One Who Waits
The Promethean Song
Down With the Sun
Weighed Down With Sorrow